Steroid alternatives provide the user with a safe, effective, and legal way to produce muscle mass without the risks associated with steroids.
Steroid alternatives use natural ingredients known to boost testosterone production, reduce the production of estrogen, and promote muscle repair and recovery.
Whether you are a rising young athletic star, or a retired gentleman who wants to stay strong to avoid late-life injuries, steroid alternatives have something to offer.
Our team of experts took a close look at the steroid alternatives market and determined that the following are the 10 best steroid alternatives for 2021.
1. CrazyBulk Bulking Stack
CrazyBulk Bulking Stack if for those who are serious about transforming their uninspiring physique into the talk of the town. CrazyBulk helps you push the performance envelope, build muscle mass and recover in record time. All without endangering your health.
What we like: CrazyBulk employs a combination of potent androgens and proven herbal extracts to unleash the body’s pent up testosterone production potential. If you do your part, it will do its part.
Flaws: You may need to resist the urge to overtrain.
2. The Max Gains Bulking Stack
Anabolic steroids are all about producing muscle mass. So it follows that your steroid alternative should do the same. Otherwise, what’s the point? Max Gains Bulking Stack provides the energy boost you need to drive your workouts and the building blocks needed to turn your effort into bulk muscle.
What we like: There is nothing in Max Gains Bulking Stack that’s going to endanger your health or leave you standing at the altar of muscle mass. It addresses all aspects of your workout from warmup to failure and ensures speedy recovery and optimal mass.
Flaws: The ‘proprietary blend’ label is what prevented this from ranking higher.
3. AndroTest Testosterone Support Matrix
AndroTest sounds vaguely illegal, but there are no anabolic steroids in this potent supplement. Instead, AndroTest uses herbal extracts like tribulus terrestris and the saponin protodioscin that ramp up testosterone production and produce large, well-shaped muscles.
What we like: Everything on the ingredient list is proven to either boost testosterone, enhance muscle size and quality, energize your workout, or speed recovery. You really can’t ask for much more than that from a steroid alternative.
Flaws: Don’t expect miracles in bed. It’s not Viagra.
4. Optimum Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate
We’re not sure why creatine isn’t on more steroid alternative lists because it does exactly what you want a steroid alternative to do: produce large, powerful muscles. And when it comes to creatine supplements, Optimum Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate is one of the best.
What we like: This is one of the simplest and yet most effective steroid alternatives on the market. Sure, the taste isn’t going to light the world on fire. But you should see impressive results relatively quickly.
Flaws: Make sure to drink plenty of water when taking creatine.
5. Jarrow Formulas 7-Keto DHEA
Jarrow produces a full line of high-quality, research-based dietary supplements, and their 7-Keto DHEA is yet one more. The DHEA here is derived from wild yam and serves the same purpose as the endogenous DHEA. That is, it turns your workouts into muscle mass.
What we like: This is a potent, well-rounded steroid alternative that enhances carbohydrate metabolism, promotes fatty acid production, and jumpstarts testosterone production.
Flaws: Despite the name, it has nothing to do with the ketogenic diet.
6. Zhou Boost Elite
Zhou is known for the time and effort they put into researching herbal extracts. In the case of Boost Elite, they’ve reached into the Old World medical bag and pulled out several ingredients that warriors have been using for centuries to enhance their power and energy levels.
What we like: Tribulus terrestris extracts have been shown through numerous clinical studies to alleviate muscle damage and enhance performance. Fenugreek is well-known for its ability to produce impressive muscle mass.
Flaws: Not the cheapest steroid alternative.
7. Optimum Nutrition Tribulus Terrestris
Optimum Nutrition makes a second appearance on our list with their outstanding Tribulus Terrestris steroid alternative. Tribulus terrestris is known to boost testosterone production and facilitate muscle repair, two things essential to building mass.
What we like: We love these simple, effective supplements. There’s nothing fancy here, just tribulus extract and tribulus powder inside an easy to swallow gelatin capsule. That’s it.
Flaws: If you have low blood pressure talk to your doctor before taking this.
8. Animal Stak Natural Hormone Booster
Whereas the previous two steroid alternatives were remarkably simple, Animal Stak Natural Hormone Booster is the most ingredient intensive item on our list. But everything is here for a reason, and the ingredients work together with effective precision.
What we like: Animal Stak has it all, from omega-3 fatty acids, to zinc, magnesium, and B-vitamins, to potent herbal extracts known to boost testosterone, and DIM to stunt estrogen production.
Flaws: Contains soy. Also, ‘proprietary blends’.
9. NOW Supplements Sports Tribulus
NOW has been a family-run company for more than 50 years. You can depend on the quality and efficacy of NOW supplements, and their Sports Tribulus is no exception. If you want a simple, potent steroid alternative for that permanently pumped look, try this.
What we like: This is another of those uber-simple supplements we’re so fond of. Nothing here but tribulus to promote testosterone production, and calcium to ensure you have strong bones to hang your new muscles on.
Flaws: If you take too much over an extended period of time, tribulus may affect your mood.
Who Needs a Steroid Alternative?
Those who want to add serious muscle mass but don’t want to be burdened with the baggage that comes with anabolic steroids should consider steroid alternatives. Where anabolic steroids bring with them a laundry list of potential side effects, alternatives like those listed above bring virtually none. Where anabolic steroids can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, alternatives cost about the same as multivitamins. And where anabolic steroids are illegal, alternatives are legal in all 50 states.
Steroid alternatives employ time-tested ingredients that promote natural testosterone production while adding momentum to your workouts and shortening recovery times. Steroid alternatives are a wise choice for athletes, bodybuilders, and, yes, older guys who want to avoid devastating injuries and breath new life into their bedroom encounters.
How We Ranked
When evaluating steroid alternatives for our list, we ignored the marketing hype (which can be intense for this type of supplement) and focused on a few fundamental considerations.
First off, any and all ingredients had to be safe to consume with minimal side effects. We insisted on ingredients that are scientifically proven to boost testosterone production, build and repair muscles, and provide other direct or indirect long-term benefits, such as stabilizing blood glucose levels or bolstering libido.
When it comes to boosting testosterone levels, few ingredients are as effective as the testosterone precursor, DHEA. DHEA is legal, and, because of its efficacy, you would think every steroid alternative would use it as a foundational ingredient. But that is not the case, mostly because DHEA has been banned by the NCAA and some other athletic regulatory bodies.
Whether that ban is fair or not is irrelevant. What matters is that those wishing to pursue a career in athletics should probably steer clear of DHEA. Still, it is effective and legal, and there may be some non-career athletes who wish to explore its possibilities, so we included a couple of DHEA-based supplements on our list.
We also left the door open to creatine supplements, which, while not normally considered a steroid alternative, can increase resting testosterone levels (1). DIM is another ingredient that is often ignored because it does not directly boost testosterone. But it does something almost as valuable: it inhibits estrogen production. That, in turn, clears the road for the testosterone in your system to work more effectively.
Finally, we subtracted points for steroid alternatives who hid their ingredient quantities behind ‘proprietary blend’ labels, simply because we believe in transparency. And we deducted points from those supplements that included lots of artificial fillers, colors, or binders.
Steroid alternatives are not as risky as steroids. The risks associated with anabolic steroids are well-known and include shrunken testicles, acne, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, liver problems, ‘roid rage’, and more (2). Steroid alternatives are free of these odious and often dangerous side effects. They employ natural ingredients to promote testosterone production, which you can then use to achieve more significant muscle mass.
Steroid alternatives are legal. Anabolic steroids are listed as a Class III controlled substance by the government (3). To possess them legally you need to have a doctor’s prescription. Possession of anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription is punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Conversely, steroid alternatives are considered a dietary supplement and are thus totally unregulated by the FDA.
Steroid alternatives are safe. Unlike anabolic steroids, the steroid alternatives listed above are considered generally safe for normal, healthy adults. They’re composed of vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, and other natural ingredients. Side effects are typically mild or non-existent. They do not usually react poorly with prescription medications. And they do not produce long-term adverse physical or mental effects on the user.
Steroid alternatives are effective. Unlike anabolic steroids, steroid alternatives promote muscle growth in an indirect manner. They provide vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, and other ingredients that boost energy and promote testosterone production. The increased energy and additional testosterone enable the user to power their workouts to new heights that would not have been possible otherwise.
Steroid alternatives are affordable. Because they are illegal without a prescription, steroids on the black market can cost many hundreds of dollars for a single cycle. By contrast, the cost of steroid alternatives is right in line with what you would expect from most other dietary supplements. By using alternatives, you will not only be saving your health and avoiding potential jail time, but you’ll also be saving money. A lot of money.
Steroid alternatives can help older guys regain vitality. One of the things steroid alternatives tend to do well is increase testosterone (4) production. As a result, it enables the building of larger, more powerful muscles. But testosterone is also an essential component of male sexual performance. As men age, testosterone production wanes, and sexual performance can suffer. Steroid alternatives can help older men regain their sexual vitality.
Steroid alternatives can help older men avoid injuries. Older folks live with the constant threat of life-changing falls (5) hanging over their every move. A broken hip, arm, or leg may never heal correctly and can send them into a downward physical spiral. When they combine steroid alternatives with resistance training, older men reap numerous health benefits. Most notably, they significantly reduce the odds of suffering a catastrophic fracture (6).
Steroid alternatives won’t cause you to fail a drug test. If you are an athlete, you know how important it is to find a competitive edge. But, as history has shown us time and again (7), anabolic steroids are career killers. With steroid alternatives, you will have to work a little harder to achieve the strength gains you’re after then you would with anabolic steroids. But they won’t cause you to fail a drug test, and they won’t endanger your health.
Steroid alternatives will help you build muscle. This is why you take steroid alternatives, and they won’t let you down. Provided, of course, that you put in the time in the weight room. Just as important as their ability to promote testosterone production is their ability to limit estrogen (8) production. Make no mistake, men need estrogen too (9). But too much of it can undermine the effectiveness of your workouts, reduce stamina, and limit muscle growth.
Steroid alternatives will help enhance your metabolism. By themselves, steroid alternatives won’t do much to increase your metabolism. But when taken as part of a strength training routine, the effects on resting metabolism can be significant (10). Why? Because muscle tissue is highly vascularized. Muscles draw blood into them, increasing circulation and burning calories. And this happens even when you are sitting at your desk reading emails.
Steroid alternatives give you more energy. In some cases, the energy boost you get from steroid alternatives is indirect. It’s the result of the bigger muscles and enhanced cardio health from all your training. In other cases, the energy boost you get from steroid alternatives is more direct. It derives from things like green tea extract and caffeine anhydrous in the supplement that’s there to kickstart your workouts.
Steroid alternatives will make you a better athlete. It only follows that if you are stronger and have more energy at your disposal that you are likely to be a better, more effective athlete. Of course, distance runners don’t need (or particularly want) to bulk up. They need to be lean and wiry. But football players, rugby players, wrestlers, bodybuilders, and more can all benefit from having a more powerful physique. The extra mass and muscle will also help them avoid injuries.
Steroid alternatives are good for your brain. Strength training increases circulation, which, in turn, increases the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells that reach your brain. This increase in oxygen in the brain is why you feel increasingly alert as your workout progresses. Increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain have also been shown to have a positive effect on memory (11).
Steroid alternatives are good for your heart. Anything that gets your heart pumping is a good thing. The heart, after all, is a muscle. And like every other muscle in your body, it starts to wither and weaken if you don’t give it a workout once in a while. Strength training is an excellent way to get your heart pumping and the blood flowing. And steroid alternatives will enable you to take your lifting sessions to new heights.
Steroid alternatives can help you control blood glucose levels. The effect is indirect, but the fact is, if you use steroid alternatives to produce a more muscular physique, you will also enhance your body’s ability to use blood sugar more effectively (12). This will have the knock-on effect of reducing the amount of sugar circulating through your system at any one time. In the long-run, this heightened ability to control blood sugars can reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes (13).
Steroid alternatives don’t contain questionable ingredients. Steroid alternatives leverage the power of minerals like magnesium and zinc, herbal extracts like horny goat weed (14) and tribulus terrestris (15), as well as natural steroid hormone precursors like DHEA (16) to achieve their muscle-building effects. The best steroid alternatives shun ingredients that sound good but do nothing.
Steroid alternatives can compensate for low testosterone. Older guys are not the only ones who experience low testosterone (17). Young men in their 20s, and even some in their teens, often fail to produce adequate amounts of testosterone. In fact, low testosterone may be one reason why a young man cannot achieve the kind of results in the gym he’s looking for. Steroid alternatives may help correct that situation.
Steroid alternatives are produced by reputable manufacturers. All of the steroid alternatives that rank for our list are produced by companies with well-established reputations in the supplement business. Some, like NOW, for instance, have been around more than 50 years and are renowned for the quality of their ingredients and the depth of their research. There are no fly-by-night, quick-buck artists here.
Steroid alternatives will help you get the body you want. The main reason people take steroid alternatives is to achieve the physical profile they’re after. They want to enhance their athletic career, feel better, look better and be stronger. When used in conjunction with a comprehensive strength training regime, the steroid alternatives on our list will help these people achieve their goals and get the body they want.
Steroid alternatives don’t require shots. Unlike their illegal distance relatives, steroid alternatives do not require subjecting yourself to the needle. Not only are steroid injections uncomfortable, they can sometimes lead to some pretty awful complications, including a horrendous type of skin infection known as mycobacterium fortuitum (18). Steroid alternatives typically take the form of a capsule or powder and negate the need for dangerous injections.
Q: What is a steroid alternative?
A: Steroid alternatives are supplements that provide the nutrients necessary to enhance workout effectiveness, reduce recovery times, and promote the creation of muscle mass above and beyond what a person would normally expect. Unlike their illegal counterparts, steroid alternatives produce their benefits without raising the specter of dangerous side effects or long-term health problems.
Q: Are steroid alternatives safe?
A: Yes. For the vast majority of otherwise healthy adults, steroid alternatives are considered by the FDA to be generally safe. That said, there may be cases where an individual with a peanut allergy may want to avoid steroid alternatives that contain fenugreek. Likewise, people taking tetracycline antibiotics should consult their doctor before taking a steroid alternative that contains zinc (19). Also, people taking prescription drugs like Haldol should consult their doctor before taking steroid alternatives that include diindolylmethane or DIM (20).
Q: Are steroid alternatives effective?
A: Yes, steroid alternatives can be very effective at helping you build muscle mass. However, as is almost always the case, how effective they are will depend almost entirely on how dedicated you are to strength training. The bottom line is that if you lift regularly, without using any type of steroid alternative, you will experience muscle growth. But, if you do the same amount of lifting while taking steroid alternatives, you will likely experience more significant muscle growth.
Q: How do steroid alternatives work?
A: Most steroid alternatives approach the challenge of building bigger muscles in three ways. First, they provide an energy boost that jumpstarts your workouts. Then they promote testosterone production, which, in turn, further powers your workout and encourages an increase in muscle mass. And finally, the various BCAAs and micronutrients in steroid alternatives speed up muscle recovery after workouts, thereby reducing how long you have to wait between sessions.
Q: Why do some steroid alternatives have ‘anabolic’ in their name?
A: Some manufacturers like to flirt with the aura surrounding anabolic steroids by including the prefix ‘ana’ in their product name. However, in such cases, ‘ana’ does not refer to actual anabolic steroids, but instead to the anabolic process. Metabolic processes are divided by scientists into two groups: anabolic and catabolic. Anabolic processes are constructive, while catabolic are destructive. So ‘ana’, in this case, simply refers to the process of muscle building.
Q: Can women use steroid alternatives?
A: They can, and many do. But keep in mind that one of the main attractions of this type of supplement is its ability to promote testosterone production. While women need testosterone, their physiology simply does not allow them to produce nearly as much as men. As such, they may see a slight testosterone boost, but muscle mass increases will be modest. If a woman wants to build world-class muscle mass, she will likely need to take supplemental testosterone or anabolic steroids. But those have their own significant drawbacks (21).
Q: How long does it take for a steroid alternative to work?
A: There are a lot of factors that contribute to muscle growth, including diet, age, metabolism, genetics, and more (22). But the number 1 factor is how much time you spend in the weight room, and how you lift. Training to failure, for instance, is crucial to building maximum muscle mass (23). With that in mind, most people who train hard and use a steroid alternative should start to see a significant difference in a month to six weeks.
Q: Are steroid alternatives legal?
A: Yes, steroid alternatives are legal in the US. The FDA considers steroid alternatives to be dietary supplements. So while it oversees the facilities where these products are made – and it prohibits blatantly false or misleading claims from being made about them – it does not regulate their sale or distribution. And just for the record, some 2nd rate supplement makers do not use FDA-certified facilities. But you won’t find those products on our list.
Q: Will steroid alternatives affect my sexual performance?
A: For years, stories have circulated about how anabolic steroids can shrink your testicles and cause sexual dysfunction. And there is reason to be concerned about that (24). But steroid alternatives are not anabolic steroids. They are not unnaturally large doses of androgens (25) being introduced from outside. Instead, they trigger your body to produce its own androgens, including testosterone. That way, there is never more circulating in your body than you are safely able to accommodate.
Q: Where does the DHEA in steroid alternatives come from?
A: DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone (say that three times fast) is as close as steroid alternatives come to being anabolic steroids. DHEA stimulates the production of testosterone, which is what produces increased muscle mass. The DHEA in steroid alternatives is derived from wild yams and is very similar, but not identical, to that produced by the body. For some people, DHEA comes a little too close to flirting with steroids, and they avoid it.
Q: Can a person become addicted to steroid alternatives?
A: No. There are no active or psychotropic ingredients in steroid alternatives that could create an addictive response. And leaving steroid alternatives behind does not create any withdrawal symptoms. Most of the ingredients in steroid alternatives are common vitamins and minerals, or herbal extracts that have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
Q: If I stop using steroid alternatives will my muscles disappear?
A: The steroid alternatives themselves did not produce your enhanced physique, weight training did. All the steroid alternatives did was make your weight training more effective, building bigger muscles than you would have produced without them. Therefore, if you stop taking these supplements, it won’t cause your muscles to disappear. But if you stop working out, those muscles will slowly diminish, and you’ll eventually be back to square one.
Q: Can I take steroid alternatives on a plane?
A: Because all of the ingredients in today’s steroid alternatives are legal and freely available, you should have no problem taking your supplements with you when you are finally able to travel again. Anabolic steroids are another matter altogether. If you take them in your carry-on, you run the risk of being arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and may spend up to a year in jail (26). It’s just not worth it.
Q: Are steroid alternatives vegan-friendly?
A: Perhaps surprisingly, most steroid alternatives are vegan-friendly. Even something that flirts with steroid status like DHEA is derived from wild yams. Most of the other ingredients in these supplements are vitamins and minerals, or herbal extracts like ashwagandha, fenugreek (27), or maca root. Where vegans may run into trouble is with the production, as some supplements are produced in facilities that also process animal products.
Q: Are steroid alternatives expensive?
A: Steroid alternatives usually cost about the same as most other dietary supplements. In fact, some cost less than certain multivitamins. By contrast, anabolic steroids can cost hundreds of dollars, sometimes more than $1,000 for a single cycle. That cost is driven primarily by the fact that most people have to obtain them on the black market.
Q: Do steroid alternatives produce side effects?
A: Although there is growing evidence that the negative effects of steroids have been somewhat overblown, the list of known side effects is still a long one (28). Fortunately, steroid alternatives produce few, if any, side effects in most people. If someone does have a problem, it is typically the result of a minor drug interaction with ingredients like zinc, or diarrhea or some other effect caused by using more than the recommended amount.
Q: Are there any foods that are natural sources of steroids?
A: There are some. For instance, beef and eggs are known to contain relatively high levels of testosterone. Although they offset that to some degree by also being a source of estrogen. Chicken and fish are also sources of male and female hormones, including testosterone. You will not, however, find testosterone in any plant foods. Even the DHEA derived from wild yams needs to undergo chemical alteration before it can promote testosterone production in humans.
Q: Where does creatine come from?
A: Creatine is comprised of amino acids that together form the building blocks of muscles. In humans, creatine is primarily synthesized in the liver and kidneys. But for supplements, it is produced synthetically by combining sarcosine (29) and cyanamide (30). Separately, these compounds are poisonous. But when synthesized, they become creatine and are perfectly safe. Creatine is used either by itself or in concert with other ingredients to boost muscle growth.
Steroid alternatives are a safe and effective way to achieve the muscular physique you want without subjecting yourself to the risks associated with anabolic steroids.
Steroid alternatives leverage natural ingredients known to promote testosterone production and, in some cases, thwart estrogen production.
Athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone in search of a higher level of physical fitness will find steroid alternatives answer the call.
Older men will find that steroid alternatives are a great way to regain physical vitality, enhance sexual performance, and fend off potentially catastrophic injuries.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended steroid alternative, click here.